CLASS: SENIOR SIX
TABLE OF CONTENTS
UNIT I: EUROPEAN LITERARY TRADITIONS
UNIT II: STRUCTURE IN MODERN PROSE
UNIT III: ELEGY AND EPITAPH
UNIT IV: LIMERICKS- RHYTHM AND RHYME
UNIT V: FREE VERSE
UNIT VI: THEATRE OF THE ABSURD
UNIT VII: RADIO AND TELEVISION DRAMAS
UNIT VIII: PERFORMING DRAMA
UNIT VI: THEATRE OF THE ABSURD
Theatre of the absurd is a form of drama that emphasizes the absurdity/ meaninglessness/hopelessness of human existence by employing disjointed, repetitious, and meaningless dialogue, purposeless and confusing situations, and plots that lack realistic or logical development.
Absurd originally means “out of harmony” (in a musical context) – its meaning in the theatre of the absurd is different from its real meaning as “ridiculous”. Absurd in the context of absurdism can mean: without purpose, illogical, out of harmony, useless, devoid of reason, meaningless, hopeless, chaotic, lacking order, or uncertain.
Some examples of the theatre of the absurd are the following: Waiting for Godot, and Endgame by Samuel Beckett. Others include Eugene Ionesco’s plays like Rhinoceros, The Chairs, The Lesson, The Bald Prima Donna / The Bald Soprano, Exit The King and The Balcony by Jean Genet.
The characteristics of the theatre of the absurd
Plot and structure
- The plot is anti-realistic, going against many of the accepted norms of conventional theatre
- There is a deliberate absence of the cause and effect relationship between scenes
- The plot is non-linear, sometimes cyclical – ending where they began, occasionally appearing as though there is no plot at all to speak of.
- There is a deliberate lack of conflict.
- Characters are both presentational and representational.
- There is the absence of character development.
- Absurd characters lack the motivation found in characters of realistic dramas, highlighting their purposelessness.
- The time, the place are frequently unclear with characters often unsure about who or where they are.
- Characters are often out of harmony with the world in which they live.
- The language was devalued as a communication tool (unreliable and distrusted).
- The language is often illogical, sometimes telegraphic and clipped.
- It is clichéd, repetitive, rhythmical, and includes long pauses.
- There is frequent use of silence and the dialogue is sometimes monotone.
- The dialogue can be slow sometimes accompanied by extremely confused and fast-paced monologue.
- It is often simple with minimum use of stage.
- It contains barren set pieces barely denoting a location.
1. DRAMATIC TECHNIQUES
Cliché is an expression, idea, or element of artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect.
- All that glitters is not gold.
- We’re not laughing at you we’re laughing with you.
- Only time will tell.
- When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
- Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed
- The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
- Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
- I lost track of time.
- Laughter is the best medicine.
- Time heals all wounds.
- Play your cards right.
- As old as the hills
- In the nick of time
- Lost track of time
- Just a matter of time
- A waste of time
- Time flies
- All for one, and one for all
Playwrights use clichés especially in dialogues to show a character’s tiredness, or perhaps even for humorous effect. There can be clichéd characters, plot lines, and settings. For example, in Waiting for Godot, the personalities of the characters are so clichéd because the same characters are “overused.”
The effect of using clichés generally closes the mind of the reader down in that it doesn’t present images in a new way or challenge the reader to imagine possibilities that he or she has never imagined before.
Wordplay is a dramatic technique and a form of wit in which the playwright uses repetitive words to become the main subject of the work, primarily for the purpose of intended effect or amusement.
Example1: From Waiting for Godot by-Samuel Beckett
VLADIMIR: Because he wouldn’t save them.
ESTRAGON: From hell?
VLADIMIR: Imbecile! From death.
ESTRAGON: I thought you said hell.
VLADIMIR: From death, from death.
ESTRAGON: Well what of it?
VLADIMIR: Then the two of them must have been damned.
Example2: From “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
TITUBA (Shocked and angry): Abby!
ABIGAIL: She makes me drink blood!
Mrs Put’m my baby’s blood?
TITUBA: No, no, Chicken blood. I give she chicken blood!
HALE: Woman, have you enlisted those children for the devils?
Nonsense is a dramatic technique used in communication, through speech, writing or any other symbolic system that lacks any coherent meaning. Sometimes in normal usage nonsense is synonymous with absurdity or the ridiculous.
Example: From “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett
ESTRAGON: It’s not worthwhile now. Silence.
VLADIMIR: No, it’s not worthwhile now. Silence.
Many playwrights use nonsense in their works, often creating entire work using it for reasons ranging from pure comic amusement or satire, to illustrate the point about language or reasoning.
- Cyclical plot
Cyclical plot refers to the way a writer arranges the events of the story provided that the plot typically begins and ends in the same or similar place and time. For this, it has a circular causality which refers to a series of events where each one is caused by another before it, and the first one is caused by the last.
- It is the plot that ends at the same place where it began.
- It is the unfolding of events that begin and end in the same place.
- It is when the story starts with the end and then jumps back in time, to the beginning. In a circular plot, the solution to a conflict/problem is never reached.
- Character pairs
In drama, when constructing characters, we always begin by pairing the two (and often only) main characters, protagonist and antagonist. Those characters must both want the same thing, but nevertheless, be bitterly opposed. In the play Waiting for Godot, everything is paired except Godot. For example, the play itself is made of two acts only. The characters, Vladimir and Estragon, the two thieves, Pozzo and Lucky, the Boy and his brother, Cain and Abel.
All pairs depict a strong connection, in which they could not work without each other, meaning that Vladimir and Estragon get along. Pozzo and Lucky are slave and master, and of course, a slave must obey the master and thus complement each other. Both pairs struggle with the question of whether they are better with or without each other, and neither comes to any sort of real conclusion.
- Use of tableau
Tableau is a dramatic picture used as a style of artistic presentation. It most often describes a group of suitably costumed actors. Tableau is usually used to describe a vivid living scene where actors are posed silently without moving.
In a tableau, participants make still images with their bodies to represent a scene. A tableau can be used to quickly establish a scene that involves a large number of characters. Because there is no movement, a tableau is easier to manage than a whole-group improvisation – yet can easily lead into extended drama activities. It can be used to explore a particular moment in a drama or story or to replicate a photograph or artwork for deeper analysis.
- Role of audience
An audience is a group of people who participate in a dramatic show in a wok of art, literature, theatre, music, video games, etc. It refers to the people who watch a play when it is being acted or performed. It refers to assembled spectators or listeners who watch the performance.
In a dramatic performance, the audience are crucial figures as they are the consumers of the product, and this makes the playwrights consider them while writing plays. The role of the audience could also be to encourage the actors through their appreciation and applause. The audience is a receptor of the stimulating agents on stage.